Like me, many of you grew up listening to the song “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. For me it was a holiday tradition, with great harmonies by the Jordaires and one of my favorite Christmas albums. But I never really gave much thought to those who do experience a Blue Christmas.
For many folks this time of year is not a happy, joyful experience. It is common for those that have lost loved ones, divorced, or those with family deployed in the military. For some people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future.
The holidays can also exacerbate depression in someone who already suffers from it. Additionally, fluctuations in weather and sunlight caused by the changing seasons can influence depressive symptoms, such as those experienced by people with seasonal affective disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 million American adults suffer from depressive illnesses every year. Unfortunately, many people with clinical depression don’t seek help, even though depression is a treatable condition.
The holiday blues refers to specific feelings and symptoms that can mimic depression such as:
- Depressed mood
- Decreased interest in life activities normally enjoyed such as social gatherings, shopping, cooking, hobbies
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Fatigue, feeling drained physically and emotionally
- Sleep or appetite disturbances
- Anxiety, feeling nervous, edgy or “keyed up”
- Excessive guilt
Here are some ways to alleviate the holiday blues:
- Stay connected. The worse thing you can do for the holiday blues is to isolate yourself. Many people who are depressed during the holidays are also lonely. Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Write a gratitude letter. Write a letter of gratitude to your parents, God, or yourself – detailing all the things that ARE great about your life today. Focus on the positive will be beneficial.
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Get moving. Exercise – even mild exercise – helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Taking a brisk walk in the am before your day or to wind down after your day – is a great way to beat the blues.
- Avoid drinking and drugs. While you may experience a temporary numbing effect – your feelings of “the blues” will only become magnified once you come down off of your drug of choice.
- Pace yourself. If you are feeling depressed, don’t say “yes” to everything. Take on one thing or nothing if need be. Do what you feel is realistic.
- Tell someone. It will be easier to get through the holidays if someone else knows how hard it is for you. People that love you – want to help. Talking about what is going on with you emotionally (in talk therapy) is one of the best ways to get through a depression of any kind.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a blue Christmas, click here or a free, confidential, on-line depression screening tool. For more information about depression, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.